An infrared image of the Missile Defense Agency’s Airborne Laser Testbed (right) destroying a threat representative short-range ballistic missile (left), Feb. 11, 2010. (US Missile Defense Agency image)
Updated: Friday, 12 Feb 2010, 4:05 PM EST
Published : Friday, 12 Feb 2010, 9:57 AM EST
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Missile Defense Agency announced Thursday that it successfully destroyed a test missile with an airborne laser.
According the agency, the test demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles.
The agency says the experiment, conducted at Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off the central California coast Thursday evening, serves as a proof-of-concept demonstration for directed energy technology.
In the experiment, which occurred at 8:44 p.m. (PST), a short-range threat-representative ballistic missile was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform. Within seconds, the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) used onboard sensors to detect the boosting missile and used a low-energy laser to track the target. The ALTB then fired a second low-energy laser to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance. Finally, the ALTB fired its megawatt-class High Energy Laser, heating the boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure. The entire engagement occurred within two minutes of the target missile launch, while its rocket motors were still thrusting.
The agency claims this successful experiment was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform.
Less than one hour later, a second solid fuel short-range missile was launched from a ground location on San Nicolas Island, Calif. and the ALTB successfully engaged the boosting target with its High Energy Laser, met all its test criteria, and terminated lasing prior to destroying the second target. The ALTB destroyed a solid fuel missile, identical to the second target, in flight on February 3, 2010.
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